Managing your acne with the right regimen — be it an over-the-counter skincare kit or a prescription solution — is a life-changing accomplishment.
But it doesn’t stop there: acne is a chronic condition. So once you’ve tackled your breakouts, your next project is keeping them in check to maintain those clear results. Turns out, a few key ingredients will do the trick: we asked Dr. Pimple Popper — dermatologist Sandra Lee, MD — to share her tips for maintaining clear, healthy skin after acne.
Dr. Pimple Popper’s post-acne tips
Looking for an all-in-one post-acne skincare solution? Save on SLMD After Acne System.
#1 Maintain a consistent skincare routine
If you’ve been sticking to a regular acne regimen, you’re already ahead of the game. According to Dr. Lee, there are two key ingredients that will help keep your acne at bay once you’re on a maintenance routine:
- Salicylic acid: One of the most popular chemical exfoliants, this beta hydroxy acid is oil soluble. This means that it can penetrate deep into pores to break up and free trapped sebum and dead skin cells, keeping comedones from forming.
- Retinol: Clinically proven to help regulate cell turnover, to help prevent dead skin cells from building up and becoming trapped inside the hair follicle. Also promotes a more even-looking skin tone, and helps ward off premature aging.
#2 Keep spot treatments on hand
No matter how diligent you are with your post-acne routine, pimples will inevitably pop up from time to time. Whether it’s due to something like physical irritation (aka acne mechanica) or hormonal fluctuations (aka period breakouts), it’s smart to stockpile a few spot treatments. Dr. Lee says to choose products containing higher concentrations of two key ingredients:
- Salicylic acid: Ideal for treating blackheads and whiteheads. Use directly on pimples, or swipe on larger areas to help prevent predictable breakouts (like on the chin due to maskne, or on the forehead for pomade acne caused by hair products).
- Benzoyl peroxide: Helps heal inflammatory pimples by killing C. acnes, the bacteria that causes acne. Apply directly to red, raised pimples.
#3 Encourage the healing process
If you’ve been managing chronic acne, chances are you’re very familiar with its aftermath: skin discoloration. While not technically the same as acne scarring, these dark marks (aka post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, PIH) can seem to linger way too long.
According to Dr. Lee, PIH is a natural part of the healing process that typically does eventually go away on its own. But you can speed the process up with ingredients like:
- Alpha hydroxy acids: Glycolic, lactic and mandelic acids work by breaking down the outer layers of the skin, encouraging the darker cells to slough off.
- Kojic acid: A natural byproduct of rice fermentation, this antioxidant helps minimize pigmentation.
#4 Make sunscreen a daily habit
Finding a sunscreen that won’t exacerbate your acne can be challenging. That’s because many sunscreen ingredients are occlusive, which means they clog your pores.
But protecting skin from UV damage has two important benefits:
- Helps ward off breakouts: Skin that’s not compromised by sun damage over time stays healthier, and better able to control acne-causing bacteria.
- Discourages dark marks: Sun exposure can darken hyperpigmentation, making it look worse and prolonging the healing process.
Dr. Lee suggests finding a sunscreen that’s specially formulated for acne-prone skin, so you don’t have to choose between UV protection and clearer skin.
Try: SLMD Dual Defender SPF 30, a lightweight combination of moisturizer and sunscreen formulated with oily or acne-prone skin in mind.
Dr. Lee's Last Word
Getting your acne under control is so rewarding — and worth it! I want people to know that it is possible, and that it’s not complicated to maintain those healthy results. That’s why I created my SLMD After Acne System, which has salicylic acid, retinol, and sunscreen — it’s the dream team!